PLEASE NOTE: We are undergoing a name change. Unleashed Training is now Sprint Ninja. We still offer high quality strength and conditioning along with personal training, with our specialty being sprint training.
Boosting testosterone and other hormonal functions is a somewhat obscure topic to all but the hardcore bodybuilder or strength athlete. Everyone likes to focus on training hard, eating enough food to gain muscle, limiting food intake to lose fat etc. Fitness, weight loss and physical performance seems to be all about the number of sets and reps, the frequency of training, the overall volume of work and how many calories are consumed. Little thought is ever given to hormones and their effect on the human body.
Have you ever struggled to gain muscle mass? Or maybe you find it easy to gain muscle mass. This is always a result of testosterone, human growth hormone, dihydratestosterone and oestrogen. If you have enough of the first three and limit production of oestrogen then you will gain muscle mass easily. The other way around and you may struggle.
What about weight loss? Ever struggled to lose fat? This is almost always a result of the four key hormones insulin, glucagon, ghrelin and leptin. These control appetite and blood sugar, among other things. Get them in balance and fat is easy to manage.
Boosting testosterone is every man’s dream. The problem is that most people don’t understand how their training and nutrition effects its production. Boosting testosterone is not really a focus for many women, however most women can relate to hormones taking over and causing all kinds of mental and physical changes within the body.
This article is not simply about boosting testosterone, however this is still a big part of it. In addition to boosting testosterone lets look at some rules and concepts for the optimizations of all key metabolic hormones and even some of the neurotransmitters that contribute to mood, behaviour and overall happiness.
Boosting testosterone and optimizing other hormones
Lets take a look at some key hormones and how to optimize them for ultimate physical performance, greater fat loss, more muscle and increased happiness.
Ok, every man is interested in boosting testosterone. If he’s not then he should be. Testosterone is the ultimate man hormone. It is responsible for body hair, facial hair, muscle mass, strength, bone density and sex drive. Not enough testosterone means a less than optimal man. But boosting testosterone and maintaining optimal testosterone levels is not just for men, women need it too.
Boosting testosterone, how do we do it? The following are a few simple steps you can take for a massive testosterone boost.
1. Eat enough fat: Yes, I am talking about all natural fat, including saturated fat from meats and eggs. I also mean cholesterol. Without enough of these nutrients your testosterone will plummet. This key hormone is made largely from cholesterol. Worried about heart disease? Animal fat and dietary cholesterol has been unfairly targeted as a major cause of heart disease. The truth is that inflammation plays a big role here. Control this hormone, train effectively and optimize the other hormones in this article and your body will not produce as much inflammation. As a result you will not store fatty deposits on your artery walls, your LDL and HDL cholesterol will be balanced and boosting testosterone will become easy.
2. Train hard, fast and short: The more testosterone you have the stronger you have the potential to be. That’s why people take steroids. But something you may not know is that the reverse is also true, in that the stronger you are the more testosterone you are capable of producing. Essentially any short, near maximal activity involving near maximal production of force will create an anabolic environment, hence boosting testosterone. This applies to heavy strength training with a big compound movements, short maximal sprints and plyometrics. Keep sessions limited to under 60 minutes, preferably 45 minutes. This has the effect of boosting testosterone as an acute response to the training, resulting in greater recovery, a more quality session and increased strength overall. It also has the effect of increasing overall strength and muscle mass. Greater strength, bigger loads lifted and greater muscle mass results in boosting testosterone levels. Lift heavy, sprint hard, jump high and train short.
3. Vitamin concoction: The following vitamin concoction was researched by Timothy Ferriss and followed up by myself with my own experimentation. Boosting testosterone is an understatement here. This concoction worked amazingly well for myself and for the subjects that applied it. Ok, so here it is….
Vitamin D3, cod liver oil (also contains vitamin D and is your main source of vitamin A, an essential vitamin in the testosterone production process) and vitamin E. That’s it, fairly simple. However in addition to these vitamins it is advised to take two other supplements, creatine (preferably monohydrate) and beta-alanine. Combine this with point number one “get enough fat” and your body will become a testosterone factory.
Boosting Growth Hormone
Human growth hormone is an amazing hormone. It is responsible for virtually all growth in the human body. It stimulates growth, cell reproduction and regeneration. It is also an important hormone is the fat loss process. The greater your growth hormone levels the greater your ability to burn fat as fuel. Also, it has been shown in recent years that HGH is responsible largely for much of the aging process. We age because our cells die faster than they can regenerate. An increase in growth hormone can prevent this from happening, or at least slow it down. It also means greater ability to heal after an injury or recover after the trauma created by training.
Boosting growth hormone, how do we do it? There are a few ways to do this. To a large degree, the boosting testosterone plan will also work for human growth hormone production. However there are two other little tricks of the trade here….
1. Intermittent fasting: This is a controversial one and something not everyone agrees with. Here I am not referring to fasting for 24 hours, or even 18. In order to boost growth hormone through fasting it is beneficial to go periods of 4-5 hours between meals and to train on an empty stomach. This also has an effect on insulin sensitivity, as I will cover later.
2. Embrace the burn of lactic acid: Training that causes a sharp raise in blood lactate levels and then runs them to a peak are massive boosters of human growth hormone. Things like sprinting 200 metres or sets of a strength exercise in the 8-12 rep range training to failure. Essentially any exercise or activity that applies near maximal effort and intensity for a period of 20-60 seconds max will have a massive effect on boosting growth hormone release.
Boosting DHT - AKA Dihydrotestosterone
Boosting testosterone also has an effect on boosting other hormones. Most people know what testosterone is and have a rough idea of what its function is in the human body. However not a lot of people know about its close cousin DHT. Why is it so important? It is 10 times as powerful as testosterone and, unlike testosterone, it cannot be converted into oestrogen.
Boosting DHT, how do we do it? Again, your boosting testosterone plan will work well with this hormone too because they are so closely related. Here are a couple of other points, the first has already been covered in boosting testosterone….
1. Fat, fat and more fat (but organic): The point I made in the boosting testosterone section about consuming adequate dietary fat is applicable to boosting DHT. I am mentioning it here as a reinforcement of the point because it is that important. But one more thing to note here is that the fats you consume from animal sources should be free range and organic choices. Factory farming stimulates the production of stress hormones in the animal, which reduce its hormonal effect on you.
2. Eat Brazil nuts: Brazil nuts are the ultimate man nuts, pun intended. They contain very high levels of selenium, which help with hormone production on several levels. They boost testosterone, but they also aid in the production of DHT.
3. Add to your concoction: In addition to your boosting testosterone concoction you should add the mineral zinc and magnesium. Don’t ask, just do it. Thank me later.
What the hell is cortisol? It is a stress hormone. If frees glucose for the brain and generates energy from stored reserves. But it also has an effect on reducing other hormones that you want more of. Another effect of this annoying hormone is that it increases systemic inflammation, which is a great way to increase heart disease risk and many other physical and medical issues.
Reducing Cortisol, how do we do it? There a few simple rules here. Follow these and you should be firing on all cylinders….
1. Don’t overtrain: Overtraining is a major cause of systemic stress and inflammation. The body needs to adapt to the training stimulus in order for the training to be effective. If training volume is too high and insufficient recovery time has been provided your body cannot keep up with the growth and repair process. As a result Cortisol is produced in larger amount, effecting health and performance.
2. Stress less: Learn to relax, practice meditation and slow the hell down. That’s a pretty simple concept. Stop worrying about things and teach yourself to both physically and mentally relax.
3. Sleep more: Simple, get enough quality sleep. Quality sleep means greater recovery.
Increasing Insulin Sensitivity and Boosting Glucagon
Ok, so we have come a fair way off the original topic that tends to get people’s attention, boosting testosterone. However insulin is one of the most important hormones in the human body. It is responsible for the regulation of blood sugar. Basically you want to be more insulin sensitive rather than resistant. More insulin release means more fat storage.
Glucagon, in simple terms, is a hormone that balances out the effects of insulin. They work as a sugar regulation team. You want optimal levels of this.
Reducing insulin and boosting glucagon, how do we do it? The following are a few simple tips and techniques….
1. Cut sugar and every other processed carbohydrate: Essentially cut out sugar, ALL sugar. Also cut white bread, pastry, cereals and other processed carb foods. Get your carbs from whole sources.
2. Intermittent fasting: This one has been covered in the growth hormone section. Fasting has been shown to develop insulin sensitivity. This is a good thing, fasting is not for everyone and should be approached with caution and maximum knowledge. The infrequent meal time model is the easiest way to make use of this principle. Simply go longer between meals. If you think you can fast for 16 hours with no adverse effect then go for it.
3. Get enough protein: Your diet should largely be dominated by protein. Protein helps with a lot of things, but it’s great at increasing the release of glucagon, which will balance the effects of insulin and excess dietary sugar.
4. Train hard: It has been mentioned in boosting testosterone, HGH and DHT that training at near maximal output is required in order to optimize the hormonal response. It is worth mentioning here too. The fitter you are in fast twitch activation the greater your ability to process blood sugar as energy instead of storing it as fat.
Dopamine is known as the happiness hormone. It is the hormone that gives the cocaine or meth addict their high, it is stimulated by gambling, over eating and smoking. But it can be harnessed for good. It should be boosted in natural ways and used to reinforce positive behaviour.
Boosting dopamine, how do we do it? Dopamine is your reward hormone. Whenever you feel pleasure from sex, falling in love or doing an activity you enjoy, it is dopamine that has been stimulated. It tells you to do more of what you’re doing, good or bad. It is the ultimate motivation hormone and drives you to do the things you do. Boost it with these methods….
1. Avoid negative habits like drugs and gambling: This is obvious. But what many people don’t realise is that by engaging in such activities you are flooding your brain with dopamine, hence reinforcing the bad behaviour and raising your threshold. Every time you do these things you need more and more of them to get the same pleasurable effect. Eventually you will find yourself almost unable to feel any pleasure at all.
2. Engage is positive habits: Exercise, get enough sex, fall in love, do charity work, help an old lady across the street. Whatever it is, if it’s a positive habit it will boost your ability to produce dopamine. Do more of these things and practice feeling good.
3. Clean up your diet: As has been mentioned earlier, the first step is eliminating sugar, processed carbs and processed fats. Add in a vitamin B supplement and some L-carnitine and you’re good to go. The concoction mentioned in boosting testosterone will also help boost dopamine.
4. Relax: Meditation and relaxation activities will help to increase your ability to receive dopamine in the receptors in the brain where it has an effect.
Leptin is the hunger hormone. It acts as a go-between for your fat cells and your brain. It is contained in your fat cells and determines energy expenditure. Leptin tells you when you have consumed adequate fuel and stops you eating too much. The problem begins when you develop leptin sensitivity.
Regulating leptin, how do we do it? Leptin is easy to regulate. Essentially you want enough of it to tell you when enough food has been consumed. Sensitivity sets in when you eat too much and ignore the full stomach signal. So there is only one recommendation here….
1. Reduce caloric consumption: Over eating is the major cause of leptin sensitivity, however it can also be caused through genetics. But we all know that genetics can be altered. Limit meal size and frequency and only eat when absolutely hungry. Again, intermittent fasting, or at least less frequent meal times, will aid in regulating leptin levels.
Boosting testosterone and regulating other key hormones is an overlooked yet extremely important thing to consider in your training and nutritional habits, and even your overall lifestyle. Pay attention to your hormones, practice what has been outlined here and reap the rewards.
What rewards? Lets see….
Increased sex drive, greater ability to gain muscle mass, longevity, more strength, better sports performance, increased innate happiness, lower body fat, less training volume required, increased immune function, compulsion/impulse control……….the list goes on.
Hormone optimization goes well beyond just boosting testosterone. Hopefully at some point in the near future we may be able to discuss inhibiting myostatin, that will be an exciting conversation indeed.
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YOUR COACH – Chris Lyons
Chris Lyons is an experienced strength and conditioning coach, having trained athletes of all ages and levels since 2002. Chris specialises in coaching athletes for speed and power specific to fast-moving sports such as rugby league, rugby union, soccer, Aussie rules football etc. Since 2002 Chris has conducted close to 15,000 hours of training and coaching directly with athletes and members of the general population. From this experience comes Sprint Ninja, based on tried and tested training methods combined with up to date research. Chris continues to challenge himself not only as a coach, but also as an athlete, competing in sprinting events, strongman and Olympic-style weightlifting.